Gilded Footnotes: November 8, 1897: MERCANTILE MEN OPPOSE ANNEXATION

November 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is the inaugural post of a new series which will look at news articles published in San Francisco from the 1890s.

From the San Francisco Call, November 8, 1897: [1]


See No Benefits That Would Accrue to This Country — Protest Against the Opening of Our Gates to Hawaiian Competition — Sugar Industry would Be Imperiled — Nothing to Be Gained by Acquiring Islands So Far From This Continent.

According to “The Call’s correspondent,” few merchants “had given any deep thought to the matter, but those who had, with few exceptions, declared emphatically that they saw few if any advantages….” The Call proclaims that those favorable to annexation were “invariably based on a false pride of country, mistaken for patriotism.” If the present issues were to be solved, the article purports, let the powers of the Monroe Doctrine be employed.

The Call lists a variety of arguments against the measure, including:

“To annex Hawaii would be to incur additional expense to the United States”

“[I]t would be a source of weakness to this country in time of war, as the United States has now more seacoast than it can adequately protect”

“[I]t would not be of any advantage commercially, as its geographical position gives this country all the commercial advantage it could ever hope to gain.”

“[I]t would inject two additional and undesirable problems into the economic system…by reason of the nature of the population of the islands – the labor situation would be seriously disturbed, particularly on the Pacific Coast, and an entirely new and different race would have to be absorbed into our population.”

“[It] would be of no material benefit… [and would] be a distinct detriment to the beet-sugar industry, which promises to be one of the greatest and most remunerative of California and of the other States of the West and Middle West.”

The article continues with a list of testimonials echoing the reasons framed by the article. From G. W. Hack of Simpson & Hack Fruit Company, Newell Matthews of Matthews & Arnot Company, M. A. Newmark of M. A. Newmark & Co., and H. W. Hellman, of the Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank, all oppose annexation as it will prove a detriment to California’s economic growth and the States’ territorial maintenance. “Uncle Sam’s family,” M.A Newark remarked, “is about as large as it should be.”

In essence we can see the classic anti-imperialist rhetoric from the author in this era. Though considering the owner of the newspaper, John D. Spreckels, it seems consistent on its face. Spreckels had significant interests in the maintenance of Hawaii as it was, given his status in the sugar industry.


[1] The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]), 8 Nov. 1897. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.


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